For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to eat. I would get so many puzzled looks from new friends as they saw me – this skinny Ethiopian girl fill my plate to the max. But that love of food is not surprising given my background. My mother’s family owned a spice market in Asmara and my dad’s family owned a cafe. They later ended up in a small city in Canada, where I was born, and opened one of the first Ethiopian restaurants in my hometown in the 90s. Strangely enough, although I loved injera (the large spongey flat bread we use to scoop up spicy stews) I always felt like it was something I could only enjoy in the home. It was too strange, too fragrant, too AFRICAN to bring around other folks. Secretly, I was ashamed. I think this is a sentiment many immigrant kids can relate to. I mean, we all know our food is bomb! But when that is never represented in the media, it’s hard to imagine that we too could have amazing chefs and foods worth documenting.
So how did a girl who was ashamed to showcase African food end up creating Black Foodie – a platform to celebrate the food and voices from the diaspora? It took a negative experience to wake me up. After having a pretty jarring experience going out at a European restaurant where my friends (a group of Black women) were treated so poorly we had to leave, I started looking at food and my decisions around food differently. I asked myself questions like, “Why had I chosen to dine there? Why didn’t I go to African or Caribbean restaurants to celebrate? Why did so many of my friends have experiences similar to mine, where they felt they had been treated poorly because they’re Black.”
I knew that for me, as a Black Foodie, things were different. So I began searching the internet
for something, a central place where I could find other people like me-Black people who loved food but added more to the conversation than the mainstream’s dialogue. After months of research what I found was that we were largely ignored. Black Foodie was born to fill the gap and truly explore food through a Black lens and celebrate the cuisine, voices and experiences of
the diaspora. I know we were out here and the after exploring many of the amazing African and Caribbean food options in Toronto, I set my sights abroad. First stop – the USA.
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I remember walking down the streets of Washington DC and seeing crowds of beautiful black people dressed to the 9’s on Sunday afternoon. But they weren’t heading to churchor the club, instead it was time for the brunch party. We had our own social culture around food. When I headed down to Atlanta where the soulfood was plentiful, I fell in love with this Black owned pizza lounge where I could get my pizza with a beautiful rendition of Maxwell’s classics. It was dope! Some of my best American travel moments had to be eating my way through New Orleans. It was there at Essence Festival where I connected with amazing celebrity chefs who not only showed me how to eat but kept me laughing the entire time.
Next was Europe where I began to learn about my own history exploring the East African
restaurants in Rome. Some of which had been around for over 30 years; this was where my father and other Ethiopian/Eritrean immigrants like him found comfort and community in the
80’s before journeying to North America. Or London, UK where I ate amazing African fusion
and met Black foodies with British accents who hosted an interesting supper club South London. My most recent trip to Montreal where I, of course, had plenty of Haitian food. I also was introduced to Greek West African food fusion in the city. People across the diaspora have traveled and everywhere I go see how these travels have influenced our palettes, events and businesses.
Within a little over a year, Black Foodie has grown immensely. We have a growing list of contributors from around the world and events in several countries. Our events, Jollof Wars, Doubles vs Patties and Injera and Chill, have brought the flavor, talent and perspectives of the African diaspora to the forefront. And having received recognition from huge outlets such as the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Essence, we know that we’re on to something great. The overwhelming response has proven to me that our voices matter. Our food, chefs, and perspectives are amazing and worth celebrating. Up next we are moving towards more video
content in the form of a food and travel web series. I grew up watching food and travel shows nand it was always older white men as hosts and content that “otherized” the communities they visit. We’re changing that narrative. We want to know what an African American thinks about Trini corn soup at carnival or how a British Ghanian is changing the Uk’s food scene. If there’s anything this past year has taught me, it’s that amazing things are happening in our food world. So stay posted as the Black Foodie team shifts the narrative and gives us a voice in food and travel.
Eden Hagos is the founder of Black Foodie, an online platform that explores food through a Black lens. She aims to celebrate food from the African diaspora. For Eden, travel is more than just a passion – it helps her connect with the leading Black chefs, restaurants and food entrepreneurs that are creating magic in the food world.